The famous 300-year-old date molasses market in Sarojganj of Khulna’s Chuadanga district is enjoying excellent business this year.
Considered the country’s largest market of its kind, it is estimated that around Tk 600 crore worth of date molasses will be traded in Sarojganj this year.
Although the growing season ends in March, the molasses produced in this period is sold year-round.
On an average, around 250 tonnes of refined date juice are sold at two haats that sit on Wednesdays and Fridays, according to leaders of the local market committee and officials of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE).
“Sales are already about to touch Tk 2 crore,” they said.
The market is located on the grounds of Sarojganj Secondary School, adjacent to the Chuadanga-Jhenaidah highway in Kutubpur union of Chuadanga Sadar upazila.
As per a DAE field survey, there are about 3 lakh date palm trees across four upazilas of Chuadanga district.
Throughout the winter season, at least 10 kilogrammes (kg) of date juice is obtained from the sap extracted from each tree. As such, around 2,500 tonnes of molasses on an average is produced in the district every season.
Apart from local production, date molasses comes to this market from several villages of the nearby Jhenaidah and Meherpur districts.
During a visit to Sarojganj market last Wednesday, it was seen that trading begins at dawn.
Buyers come from different districts across the country to buy the product.
Harun-ur-Rashid Laskar, a wholesaler based in Biyani Bazar of Sylhet, has been travelling to Sarojganj to collect date molasses for several years now.
“Even though the price of date molasses sold in Sarojganj is comparatively high, it is not an issue as there is good demand for a quality product,” he said.
Laskar bought 300 jars of molasses weighing about 12 to 14 kgs.
Prices are a little higher this season for various reasons as a jar of molasses weighing 12 to 14 kgs is being sold for about Tk 1,800 to Tk 1,900.
Last season, the same amount sold for Tk 1,200 to TK 1,400.
“But despite the higher prices, sales have not dropped at all,” said Alamgir Hossain Bhuyian, a local buyer.
Much of this product is made at home by date farming families, according to DAE officials.
Ali Hasan, deputy director of the DAE office in Chuadanga, said the molasses produced in Chuadanga does not contain any sugar, chemicals or other additives.
“The DAE has made farmers aware of the dangers of tampering their product many times now and they are also supervised at the field level,” Hasan added.
The DAE deputy director went on to say that due to the area’s unique soil, the molasses produced here is just slightly brown in colour.
Many locals are involved in molasses production. Around 10,000 people work in the industry during harvesting seasons and around 500 year-round.
Date growers in the area are also reaping significant benefits through this large-scale economic activity centered on date molasses production.
Most of the date palms have been planted in Sarojganj, Daulatdia, Alukdia and other areas of Chuadanga Sadar.
The trees can be seen all over the area in fields and private plantations.
Seasonal date growers lease these trees to produce molasses.
Piplu Ahmed of Pirpur village said each tree was leased for Tk 250-300.
Ahmed owns about 130 date palms, which he leases out every year to earn around Tk 35,000 annually without any investment.
Grahan Mandal, a veteran molasses producer in the Shankardia area, said about 10 kg of molasses comes from one tree each season.
On average, a lessor earns Tk 1,000 to Tk 1,200 from a single tree, he added.
DAE Deputy Director Hasan said they were looking forward to planting more date palms from next year onwards.